Faces in the Crowd
36 Extraordinary Tales of Tianjin
by Feng Jicai
Pub Date 2 Nov 2019
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In a series of beautifully illustrated short stories, author and artist Feng Jicai introduces some weird and wonderful characters from the port city of Tianjin in northeast China where he was born and raised. They include a miracle doctor, a master chicken-thief, an ill-mannered mynah bird, a smooth-talking restaurateur and an educated gangster.
In the gateway city, only the best stories survive
The port of Tianjin is where the ancient Chinese empire met the sea. The turn of the 20th century was a tumultuous time for the city, with the Qing dynasty on its last legs and the Boxers unleashing their ill-fated rebellion against the European trading concessions that had colonised its streets.
For Tianjin’s inhabitants, daily life carried on. These hardy people were shaped by the bitter earth from which they sprang, and every once in a while, there would emerge someone so remarkable that a new name would be inducted into Tianjin’s hall of fame.
From a miracle doctor to an ill-mannered mynah bird, they came from every walk of life and in all shapes and sizes. Together, their stories make up the rich tapestry of a city that the modern world has washed away...
Born in Tianjin in 1942, Feng Jicai is a contemporary author, artist and cultural scholar who rose to prominence as a pioneer of China's Scar Literature movement that emerged after the Cultural Revolution. He has published almost a hundred literary works in China and more than forty internationally. He is proficient in both Chinese and western artistic techniques, and his artwork has been exhibited in China, Japan, the US, Singapore and Austria. He has had a major influence on contemporary Chinese society with his work on the Project to Save Chinese Folk Cultural Heritages and his roles as honorary member of the Literature and Arts Association, honorary president of the China Folk Literature and Art Association and adviser to the State Council, among others. He is also dean, professor and PhD supervisor at the Feng Jicai Institute of Literature and Art, Tianjin University.
‘An extraordinary literary memorial’
JULIA LOVELL, Author of The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China
“I don’t think anyone in China would be surprised if Feng Jicai won the Nobel Prize for Literature – he’s the Chinese Charles Dickens, and his work has influenced at least four generations. This book will draw you into Tianjin city life at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Story by story, you’ll smell the Chinese cooking, witness the men fighting, hear the women gossiping, and feel the anger and laughter of the people of Tianjin. It’s a book full of miracles, and it’s funny too!”
XINRAN, Author of The Good Women of China and The Promise
“Like the drawings by the talented author himself, which add plenty of charm to the book, the stories collected here form a broad stroke but vivid portrait of the port city of Tianjin some one hundred years ago. It may serve as an appetizing teaser to anyone who’d like to get to know Chinese culture.”
ZHANG LIJIA, author of Lotus (named one of the best books of 2017 by NPR’s Book Concierge) and the bestselling "Socialism is Great!": A Worker's Memoir of the New China